It struck me as less a helpful piece of information than a warning to people who know the case well: Attempts to point out the many factual problems with this film will be dismissed as artistic ignorance.
In lieu of examining Spector's actual case and what it says about the American legal system, the film prefers to meditate on what HBO calls "the nature of celebrity" and how it contributed to the supposed framing of Spector. There are long stretches in which former pals, lawyers and the defendant himself muse on the larger reasons for the injustice.
"It's called envy," Pacino-as-Spector says. "Extraordinary accomplishments … transform the grateful into an audience and the envious into a mob."
Our culture's relationship with fame is ripe for comment, but it's unclear why Mamet chose Spector as his vehicle. When his case first went to trial in 2007, Spector wasn't exactly Kim Kardashian. He hadn't produced a hit in decades and was less a celebrity than a tricky "Jeopardy!" question.
Prospective jurors couldn't envy him because they had no clue who he was — a reality the film acknowledges, then conveniently forgets in reaching its broader point about strange artists and fair trials. It's a highly questionable assertion, given the acquittals of Robert Blake and Michael Jackson in the years leading up to Spector's trials.
In shoving Spector's case into an ill-fitting argument, so much of what made his case fascinating is lost. The movie depicts Spector as a music industry Miss Havisham, shambling through his mansion's endless rooms of musty memorabilia and muttering about John (Lennon) and Lenny (Bruce).
There is no acknowledgment that Spector was happily married at the time of the trial. He met his wife, an aspiring singer four decades his junior, after the shooting and throughout the proceedings, she doted on him, helping him style his wigs for each day of testimony and wrapping her arm in his as they walked into the courthouse.
Spector's defense team was a legal clown car of five big-time attorneys trying to squeeze their egos into a nationally televised case. The high-powered defense was so strategically outfoxed by the prosecution in opening statements that Spector's lead attorney, Bruce Cutler, a New York mob lawyer, begged the judge for an emergency trial delay: "I feel like my pants are down and I'm naked before the court!" he bleated in Brooklynese. The movie airbrushes away three of the lawyers and renders the Technicolor personalities of the ones who remain in beige.
I wish Mamet had taken on celebrity and justice by writing a truly fictional story. Distorting the Spector case serves only to undermine the public's faith in the jury system. If, as is often said, a trial is a search for truth, "Phil Spector" the movie seems an odd exercise in hiding it.